"I can’t recommend Mandy’s class enough. I had never taken a writing class outside of college, and fiction is not my usual medium. I wanted to challenge myself but was wary of entering a space that was bred on criticism and judgement, and spent a long time looking for the right match... [Mandy's] class was the highlight of my week. She holds space for each and every writer, has the ability to teach the more academic/ structural stuff in an interesting and dynamic way, and her class is founded on supportive, honest critique that is judgement free... Mandy created such an intimate and safe environment for us to explore and better our fiction writing. If you are debating on whether this class is right for you, don’t hesitate. 10/10 would take the class all over again (probably will)." - former student
For many writers, exposition is the easy part. But what about the stuff that propels stories forward: scene and plot? Readers need present action that they can grasp onto, and we will dive into the nitty gritty of fiction: getting your characters from point A to point B, and writing active scenes that engage readers while also servicing the greater plot of your story or novel. This class is for writers with past workshop experience, who are eager to refine their sense of narrative and momentum and plot in a rigorous setting with committed peers. We’ll discuss craft elements that relate to action and scene including dialogue, physical movement, chronology, and structure.
Students can expect weekly writing exercises, readings from contemporary fiction writers, the opportunity to be workshopped twice, and a one-on-one meeting with the instructor to discuss works-in-progress and writing goals. You’ll come away with more engaging scenes and meatier plots, transforming your stories and novels into captivating page-turners.
To apply for the course, please submit a writing sample of up to 10 double-spaced pages. Admission is rolling.
Class meetings will be held over video chat, using Zoom accessed from your private class page. While you can use Zoom from your browser, we recommend downloading the Zoom desktop client so you have access to all platform features.
- A stronger grasp on writing active scenes in fiction
- Intensive peer and instructor feedback on two story or chapter submissions
- One private conference (via Zoom) with the instructor to discuss your writing style, goals, and areas for improvement
- The support of a nurturing community of writers and readers and access to an engaged mentor
- Greater familiarity with contemporary fiction writing
- More confidence as a writer, on and off the page
Students should expect to produce two new plot-centric short stories or novel chapters throughout the eight-week course. They should also expect to read two-to-three workshop stories per week (size of class dependent), write thoughtful critiques to those stories, and participate in the live workshop sessions. The workshop will emphasize elements of plot, scene, and story, and students are expected to both submit work that addresses these elements and focus on them in their feedback. Additional readings include one published short story or novel chapter per week, which will serve as the basis for conversations on plot and scene. Students will also have the opportunity to partake in weekly craft exercises.
Week 1: Introduction to Plot
Week 2: The Inciting Incident
Week 3: Plot Structure
Week 4: Rising Action
Week 5: Climax and Resolution
Week 6: Character as Plot Device
Week 7: Dialogue as Plot Device
Week 8: Exposition and Backstory
Mandy Berman is the author of Perennials and The Learning Curve. Perennials was a Barnes & Noble Discover Pick of 2017 and named as Best Book of Summer 2017 by Vanity Fair, ELLE, Houston Chronicle, Newsday, and Redbook, among many others. Both novels have been reviewed by dozens of outlets, including The New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker, and Kirkus Reviews. Her nonfiction writing has been published in The New York Times, TIME, Literary Hub, Poets & Writers, and elsewhere. She lives in the Hudson Valley.
"Exploring the shifting nuances of how power plays out in all relationships, Berman’s novel abounds with questions of our political moment: 'Was it possible to be both a feminist and to want a man who was bad for women?'"
"Mandy Berman perfectly captures an all-too-familiar academic love triangle between college friends Fiona and Liv and their charming college professor, Oliver Ash. Berman explores power dynamics and identity issues that the women are forced to face when Ash's sketchy past reveals he's had a relationship with a former underage student."
“The complexities of intimacy and consent are explored in this smart, engaging coming-of-age story... Berman delivers a thorough and incredibly timely investigation into relationship power imbalances that’s sure to start a lot of conversations.”
“Berman’s debut, a winning, keenly observed, and clear-eyed novel set in a summer camp, captures the age when fierce attachments forged over years begin to unravel, passionate female friendships give way to sex, and identity seems to shift with the tides.”
“Snappy and irresistible, Berman’s debut novel, PERENNIALS, takes readers back to summer camp, where her characters’ first friendships and treasons play out in sharp dialogue and playful, generous prose. Berman fearlessly renders youth and adulthood alike, in sentences you’ll want to savor.”
“Mandy Berman explores an old trope: the magic of summer camp, a place separate from the rest of your life where you can become a slightly different version of yourself, a place where friendships run impossibly deep and romance and sex are innocent. But what happens when that divide begins to crumble, and real life, in all its moral ambiguity, finds its way to the heart of a halcyon summer? Lucid, psychologically nuanced, and great fun to read, PERENNIALS has taken an old subject and made it new.”
“Mandy Berman has remade the American summer camp narrative, ditching the usual clichés and getting in close with her characters and their various states of emotional and economic precariousness. PERENNIALS is a sharp, crushingly observant, and empathetic debut, full of wit and tragedy, and good for all seasons.”
“Berman is at her most insightful when exploring the awkward unfurling of female adolescence. . . PERENNIALS is a sharp meditation on the changing female body, and the ways in which such changes are often involuntary and unwanted."
"Mandy is a thoughtful writer and teacher who will help you improve your story by offering insightful feedback about the story that you want to write (as opposed to the story that someone else thinks you should write). She supports the development of your voice by emphasizing various aspects of creative writing that will strengthen your work. "
"Mandy Berman is an exceptional teacher, plain and simple. When discussing readings, she expertly communicates what the writer is doing beneath the text, and when analyzing her students' writings, she provides crucial insights and shows opportunities for growth."
"Mandy was very passionate about storytellers... She led a lot from her passion and skills. How those two things were fused together gave the class a sense of organic enthusiasm. It was not a burden, a paycheck or a interruption. I got the sense [Mandy] was like a coach or a drill sergeant who loves players or soldiers and who helps to bring people along because she saw the need for more voices to pipe up. Sometimes I found myself thinking, 'maybe she is trying to get the stories she wants out of us because she enjoys them.' The way she read and talked about the voices in the room showed she had a keen sense of where people wanted to take their stories and what kind of writers they wanted to be and could be. How she led the discussion was perfect, sometimes prompting and then stepping back or vice versa when needed. She had very good rhythm with this."
"Mandy was an excellent teacher—composed, insightful, and patient. She supported my work while challenging me to improve my writing. I highly recommend any class or workshop she is leading."
"Mandy is a deeply generous teacher and editor. She provides thorough and detailed feedback that gets to the heart of a story, and illuminates both its strengths and weaknesses with great compassion and care. I felt totally encouraged by her honest and specific notes, and left every workshop inspired to develop my projects with more confidence in my writing. Her class made me not only a better writer, but a better editor of work in general, whether it’s my peers’ stories or my own."
“Do you remember that youthful summer when ‘everything changed’? Mandy Berman sure does and her wonderful novel is a snapshot of that time and the group of young women who are irrevocably changed by it. PERENNIALS manages to be warm and loving and still wallop you with moments of shock and pain. What an exciting debut.”